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NOW in its sixth year, the multi-venue Middlesbrough music festival Twisterella is a shining beacon of positivity — and hopefully ongoing prosperity — for a part of Britain that has had its fair share of knocks and shocks.
In September last year, BBC2 aired the documentary series The Mighty Redcar, which focused on a selection of individuals living in the economically beleaguered coastal town not 10 miles east of Middlesbrough.
What emerged was not another hackneyed tale of decline and depression resulting from years of industrial shutdown but one of much promise. Importantly, the films were seen as uplifting.
The most memorable was perhaps the story of 16-year-old Dylan Cartlidge, a boy fostered by a Redcar family who with an abundance of musical talent, a clear physical presence and definite star quality, has since gone on to pick up a recording contract and a major songwriting publishing deal.
This weekend Cartlidge closed the sold-out Twisterella Festival, headlining a packed Westgarth Social Club. The last decade has seen the club become a lynchpin circuit venue for touring groups and artists thanks to local promoters Andy Carr and Henry Carden, who are not only behind Twisterella but also responsible for reviving Middlesbrough as a vital stop-off for young and emerging groups looking for a room full of hungry punters.
Middlesbrough as a town is buzzing. It feels like something is happening and a community-based event like Twisterella must take the lion’s share of the credit. The festival prides itself on being ahead of the curve in its booking policy and skilfully mixes artists from across Britain and abroad who are perhaps on the cusp of breaking into something bigger.
Pom Poko, The Vegan Leather and EUT were all stand-outs this year along with showcasing a wealth of local talent such as Hartlepool’s Mt. Misery. They put in a double shifting as an excellent back-up band for another superb find, Canadian singer-songwriter Micah Erenberg — a hook-up that sent a packed-out room into a frenzy.
Sticking your neck out in this way has earned Twisterella a nomination for the In on the Ground Floor category at this year’s Independent Festival Awards.
Carden and Carr trade off trust — they’re fostering a convergence of curator, talent and community — and the success of Twisterella is clear proof that cities, towns and communities throughout the land can stake a claim for culture, music and the arts to lead, guide, gel and unite.
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